2016 marks the sixth year of the Iron Chef Gainesville competition at Taste of Gainesville. Showcasing Greater Gainesville’s culinary talent, the live cook-off features a top secret ingredient, three delicious courses and judging by celebrity chefs and food critics. This year, Iron Chef Gainesville welcomes two new additions to the Judge’s Table, Whitney Miller and David Leite.
At just twenty-two, Chef Miller won the first season of Fox’s “MasterChef,” and has been blazing trails in the world of Southern cooking since. She is the author of two cookbooks: Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm, and most recently, Whitney Miller’s New Southern Table.
Leite is a food writer, author, memoirist and web publisher. He founded his website, Leite’s Culinaria, in 1999. In 2006, he had the distinction of being the first James Beard Award winner for a website, a feat he repeated in 2007. Leite’s work has appeared in the Best Food Writing Series a record total of fourteen times from 2001 to 2015.
This year’s returning celebrity judge is Angie Shaghaghi, owner of Creative Cooks, a mobile culinary school in New Jersey. Chef Shaghaghi has appeared on multiple television series, including Food Network’s “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen” as well as Rachel Ray’s daytime reality show, “Hey Can you Cook?!” and the subsequent “All-Star Reunion” returning as a fan favorite.
Picture a beautifully set table, a mouth-watering aroma wafting into your nostrils, and an enticing plate of chouriços and clams — pork marinated in white wine and rubbed with paprika, garlic, white pepper, lemon, parsley and cilantro and then cooked with the spilled liquor of fresh clams.
This is what you would dine on for your first meal with award-winning chef and writer David Leite. All that David will ask of you is to put your phone away for the night.
Growing up, David was expected home for dinner, which was shared without distractions. He finds we’ve fallen away from the table, where families of all kinds can come together and reconnect after a day spent apart. The solution? Good skills in the kitchen have the ability to lure people back to the table. It’s not just about great food, though, it’s about the memories you create that center around food. David insists “food is the catalyst, not the memory.” Think back to a memorable dinner you attended, David says, and food probably isn’t the only subject of that memory. Food is temporal; memories made with dining mates are what we inevitably take away from the table. David remembers trying to make dinner with friends and roommates in college, where they made more messes and fires than gourmet meals, but David only focuses on the time spent laughing together. As he likes to say, “memories are memories.” According to David, elevating your community begins at the family table, where bruises can heal and ties can be strengthened. leitesculinaria.com
Leite’s Orange Olive Oil Cake
Dense and rich in flavor, this Portuguese dessert is sure to be a show-stopper at any event. Since this orange-olive cake only gets better with age, don’t even think about taking a bite until the day after you make it, or even the day after that!
- Nonstick baking spray, with flour
- 4 to 5 large navel oranges
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
- 1 ¾ tsp. kosher salt
- 5 large eggs
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups mild extra virgin olive oil
- Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, remove any racks above and crank up the heat to 350°F (175°C). Coat a 12-cup Bundt or tube pan with baking spray and set aside. Finely grate the zest of three oranges, then squeeze four of them. You should have 1 ½ cups of juice; if not, squeeze the fifth orange and set aside. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a handheld mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until well-combined. Slowly pour in the granulated sugar and continue beating until thick and pale yellow. On low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and oil, starting and ending with the flour, and beat until just a few wisps of flour remain. Pour in the orange juice and zest and whirl for a few seconds to bring the batter together. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about one and a quarter hours. If the top is browning too much as the cake bakes, cover lightly with foil. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes. Turn the cake out onto the rack and cool completely, then place it in a covered cake stand and let it sit overnight. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar.
Burgeoning young chef Whitney Miller is putting her great food skills to use.
By using her local celebrity status to help bring in people to charity events, she’s been able to give back to the community. To Miller, community involvement is important. We all have to help out where we can, without expecting anything in return, she says.
Being new to Plant City, Florida, made it extra necessary for her to get involved and meet new people. Part of being involved in the community revolves around using her raw talent as an inspirational tool. Many people want success without putting in the hard work. Whitney is proof that if you put in the hard work, in just a few years anything can happen. Winner of MasterChef Season 1 and author of two successful cookbooks, you could say she knows what she’s talking about. Keep her wisdom in mind, and follow her philosophy of keeping Southern hospitality alive.
Whitney’s great-grandmother, the inspiration behind the cooking and the cookbook, practiced hospitality and instilled the southern values in Whitney. Lately it seems everyone is too busy to be hospitable. Whitney insists a way back into hospitality is through food, since it’s a big connector. Create a large hearty meal and maybe share it with a neighbor or two. It’s hard to predict what will happen next with any certainty, she says, but know that you’re slowly building communal values.
Chef Miller’s Smoked Red Beans and Rice
This New Orleans-style red beans and rice recipe is uniquely flavored with a touch of smoked salt and ground beef. On many a Sunday, my great-aunt Ilene’s stovetop has been covered with huge pots of rice, beans, and greens — enough to feed fifty hungry souls (although this recipe serves six to eight
people). I love the extra flavor the ground beef adds to this otherwise classic bean recipe.
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 7-oz. smoked Andouille sausage, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup yellow onion, very finely chopped
- ½ celery rib, very finely chopped
- 1/4 cup green bell pepper, very finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 cups beef stock, divided
- 1 lb. dried red kidney beans, rinsed, drained and soaked overnight
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 tsp. smoked salt
- ½ tsp. fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
- 1/8 tsp. smoked paprika
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- 8 cups long-grain white rice, cooked
- Chives, chopped (for garnish)
Place the ground beef in a Dutch oven or large pot, and cook over medium-high heat until browned, using a spoon to break up the meat as it cooks. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a plate. Discard the fat. Add the sliced sausage to the pan and cook over medium to medium-high heat until the meat is done and the fat has been rendered. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, celery and green pepper, and cook until the vegetables are translucent, about six minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute. Return the ground beef to the pan. Add four cups of the beef stock. Add the beans, bay leaves, thyme, smoked salt, sea salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Increase the heat to medium, cover, and cook for two-and-a-half hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock as needed to keep the beans covered. Cook until the beans are tender. Serve warm over rice. Garnish with chives.
“Why are we making latkes? Are you Jewish?” A little girl asks Angie Shaghaghi during one of her cooking classes. Angie laughs in response, and tells her small student to be open-minded. “What if you had never tried pizza before?” She asks the girl. After some consideration, the girl says that maybe pizza would look weird if she’d never seen it before. Opportunities like these are embraced by Angie, who enjoys encouraging kids to try all types of food, regardless of ingredients or appearance. She realizes kids can be close-minded, especially with food. As a local celebrity, Angie makes it part of her mission to be a positive role model and teach good values. Both inside and outside of the kitchen, Angie is a passionate advocate of family values and connections, and enjoys spending time with her kids.
Everything she does, she says, is in an effort to instill the value of spending time in the kitchen with your family, healthy eating habits and opening up the doors of communication. Her life is lived using food to better the community, she says, and maintains that food connects us in every way since we all need it to survive. She often goes beyond the usual call of duty, driving to areas of poverty to teach cooking basics, or taking the time to discuss recipes with community members. Angie lives her life trying to be a gift to others, she says, because she believes “there’s always something you can provide.”
Chef Shaghaghi’s Rainbow Chili
A delicious way to serve skirt steak for a crowd. And of course this chili tastes even better a day or two (or three!) later.
- 2 lbs. of skirt steak or boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 3 large sweet peppers (red, yellow and orange suggested), each seeded and diced
- 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
- 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes
- 28-oz. can of low sodium beef or chicken stock (can substitute with just water)
- 28-oz. can of black, kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed well
- 2 tbsp. avocado oil or olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. sweet paprika
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tbsp. agave syrup or honey
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- Half of a fresh lime
- (Optional) Half of a canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded
In a large pot, add the oil and diced onions and sauté for about three minutes. Add the remaining veggies and cook for five minutes. Add the meat of your choice and sear on high, browning quickly on all sides, then reduce heat. Add all spices, tomatoes and low sodium beef or chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add beans and agave nectar or honey. Top with cilantro and any other fresh herbs of your choice and adjust seasoning to taste. Squeeze half of lime for a little added freshness. Serve topped with sour cream or Greek yogurt over rice, quinoa or with tortilla chips.